December 6, 2015
Back in 1991, there was a film called "Point Break" about a young FBI agent named Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) who infiltrates a bank-robbing group of surfers led by a guy named Bodhi (Patrick Swayze). As wild as that synopsis sounds, this was a actually a very good action film, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, 17 years before her Best Director Oscar for "The Hurt Locker." This new film is a remake that shares the same plot elements. However, everything in the plot was expanded and levelled up many times over.
Before, Johnny Utah's athletic background was just his stint as quarterback back in college. He still needed to take surfing lessons in order to build up his cover for his mission. The Johnny Utah now was a hotshot motocross stuntman with a past troubled by guilt. Conveniently for this case, he just so happened to also know how to surf, skydive, snowboard, rock climb, what have you.
Before, Bodhi and his gang were just crazy surfer dudes robbing banks to send a message about beating the system that killed the human spirit. Now, they were philosophical multi-athletes of the highest order who were trying to complete a legendary list of tasks called Ozaki-8. This was a fictional series of eight extreme challenges which honor the forces of nature and "give back" to the earth, the completion of which ultimately led to nirvana.
There were several smaller details reminiscent of the first film. The robbers would wear masks of US presidents on their heists -- Reagan and company before, Obama and company now. There was a bloody gunfight somewhere in the middle, though the original one was more graphic. There was a scene where Utah would shoot his gun into the air in frustration after a moment of hesitation. There was a scene where Utah would allow Bodhi to catch the ultimate big wave.
One of the obvious difference between the 1991 and the 2015 version is the sense of humor. This remake takes itself so seriously In 1991, the humor was mainly because of Gary Busey's wisecracking and riotous performance as Utah's senior partner Angelo Pappas. Ray Winstone, while efficient as ever, played a considerably toned-down and straightforward version of Pappas. As the only female in the cast, Teresa Palmer was sexy as Samsara, but she did not have the spunk that made Lori Petty's Tyler memorable in the first one.
Another factor against this remake is the lack of star power in its largely-unknown cast. Luke Bracey took over for Keanu Reeves, while Edgar Ramirez took over for Patrick Swayze. At the time when the first Point Break came out, Reeves and Swayze were already big stars and their star power really propelled the film's wide appeal. In this new film, the leads were both new actors. I felt Bracey did not have star charisma. Ramirez in particular was hardly distinguishable from the other members of his gang, with their similar-looking dark beards.
Director Ericson Core made the most of all those extreme sports scenes set on water, air and mountains in the most exotic locations to even exceed the breathtaking factor of those we have seen before in previous James Bond or Mission Impossible films. That awesome gearless rock climb on the cliff face of Angel Falls in Venezuela will keep you on the edge the whole time. These exciting adrenaline-infused scenes were the clear highlights of this movie. Even if the story that strung those scenes together though was rather unconvincing, for this film, action is the point. 7/10.